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Pruning holly, grape vines is OK for holidays

SALISBURY — The erratic weather during the holiday season has many gardeners asking questions about their landscapes, Christmas decorations and other outdoor maintenance chores. Below are a few questions posed to Cooperative Extension over the past few weeks.
Question: I want to prune my grape vines and holly trees and use the branches to make a wreath for Christmas decorations. Can I prune my vines and trees now and not hurt them?
Answer: Lightly pruning the vines and shrubs now will not injure them. Avoiding heavy pruning as a normal cultural practice in the late winter and early spring is recommended.
Question: When is a good time to fertilize my pansies? They do not seem to be doing well at this time and I thought some fertilizer might help.
Answer: Fertilize pansies with a water soluble fertilizer when temperatures are consistently below 60 degrees. Avoid fertilization during unseasonably warm temperatures as we have experienced this past week. Excessively warm temperatures cause the plants to stretch and become weak and frail.
Question: Our family really likes Fraser fir Christmas trees and would like to plant one outdoors to decorate each year. A person at a Christmas tree stand told me these trees would not grow well here. Is this true?
Answer: Yes, the person is correct. Fraser fir grows naturally only in the southern Appalachians, above 3,000 feet. The N.C. mountain region grows some of the most sought- after Christmas trees in the United States. Plant a Colorado blue spruce or Norway spruce instead of a Fraser fir. These look very similar to Fraser firs and will grow fairly well in our area.
Question: My friend from church gave me some paperwhites and they are about to bloom. Can I plant them after they have bloomed outdoors?
Answer: No, paperwhite bulbs are not hardy in our climate and will not survive the winters. They are generally throwaway plants.
Question: My friend has some hellebores that are now starting to bloom. I thought hellebores were supposed to bloom in the early spring?
Answer: There are a number of hellebores that bloom in the early spring and late fall and winter. The cultivar that blooms in late fall is commonly known as the “Christmas rose” hellebore. With the unusual weather patterns over the past few weeks, it’s conceivable that your friend most likely has Christmas rose hellebores which are in bloom now. Go to http://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/all/helleborus-orientalis/ for more detailed information.
Darrell Blackwelder is the County Extension Director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Call 704-216-8970.